by JOHN HOWLEY / sportingpumpkin.com
A big play to start the second half gave Logan Elm the push it needed to pull away from Circleville on the way to claiming its fourth straight Backyard Brawl by a score of 40-19.
“It was a challenge. Nothing came easy tonight,” Logan Elm coach Terry Holbert said. “They were ready to go and played very physical. They had a great plan of attack, overall.
“I thought for the most part when we had the ball we did things with it, the problem in the first half was possessing the football.”
Circleville had ended the first half with a quick touchdown drive to put the score at 20-13 and was set to receive the second half kickoff with an eye toward tying the score.
The Braves did what they’ve been doing all season in kicking the ball high and a little short. Circleville was unable to get a handle on the ball and LE’s Gavin Hoover swooped in and fell on it to set up the Braves at the Circleville 30. Four runs from Landon Thompson put LE in the endzone and up 27-13 less than a minute into the second half.
“It wasn’t an intentional onside kick, but what we’re trying to do there is allow our guys to get down the field quickly and force them into a fair catch situation, they didn’t field it clean and that was a huge momentum swing right off the bat in the second half,” Holbert said.
Friday’s misplay and an onside kick last week at Westfall, have put the Tigers in tough situations.
“I told the kids after the game, that we’ve got to evaluate what we’re doing whether it’s scheme-wise or personnel-wise. I said I’ll take the responsibility for that,” Circleville coach Steve Evans said. “I’m a firm believer that special teams are a big part of football and I haven’t done a good enough job of determining where we’re making mistakes.”
After LE’s TD to open the second half the teams traded possessions with Circleville turning it over on downs at the LE 29 followed by both teams punting.
LE then mounted a nine-play drive that had four plays of 11 or more yards and was aided by a 15-yard penalty. The drive culminated two minutes into the fourth quarter with a 12-yard scoring pass to Hunter Kersey from Aaron Walters for a 33-13 LE lead.
Circleville’s ensuing possession ended when Carson Summers intercepted a pass setting up his team at the Circleville 20.
The Braves made short work of the short field. On the fourth play of the possession, Summers hauled in a 17-yard pass from Walters. Dawsen Hudson’s PAT gave the Braves a 40-13 advantage.
The Tigers added another score late in the game on a six-play drive that featured a 36-yard pass from backup QB Austin Gray to Jack Kline and then the two connected a couple plays later on a 22-yard scoring pass.
“Our staff made some adjustments at halftime and the kids responded well,” Holbert said. “I thought we played more physical in the second half and kind of wore them down.
“It was a great evening, a great crowd, a great rivalry atmosphere — I certainly think Brad would have been proud of both teams tonight.”
Trying to ensure the Kingston National Bank Trophy would stay at Logan Elm, the Braves struck quickly to open the game. On the third play from scrimmage, Walters connected with Kersey for a 58-yard touchdown.
Circleville answered, but took its time. The Tigers used 16 plays to cover 65 yards in 7:32. Jude Blair ran the ball nine times on the drive and it came to an end when Hudson Phalin connected with Drew Thornsley for an eight-yard score. The PAT pass failed leaving the Braves ahead 7-6.
The Braves took a little longer with their next drive, using nine plays to cover 60 yards. Summers was on the receiving end of a 16-yard scoring pass from Walters as time expired in the first quarter. Hudson’s kick gave LE a 14-6 lead.
Circleville punted on its next possession, got the ball back when Jacob Johnson intercepted a pass, but then turned it over on downs at the LE 41 with 4:10 left in the half.
The Braves used seven plays to cover the 59 yards — the last being a 25-yard scoring pass from Walters to Camden Redd. The PAT was blocked and LE was up 20-6.
With only 1:52 on the clock, Circleville mixed four runs in with eight passing plays. Phalin was 4-8 on the drive with the first three completions resulting in first downs and the fourth being an eight-yard touchdown to Thornsley as time expired. Payton Ford’s kick made it 20-13 at the half.
“The kids came back, they responded and we went on a great drive. It was a nice mix of run and pass, we were able to come down and answer,” Evans said. “Then I thought we made some good adjustments defensively the first half. And we were able to put a big drive together right before halftime and cut it to a one-score game.”
While the win column doesn’t have a “1” in it yet, Circleville has been making strides each week but has seen a handful of plays get them in a hole.
“The win hasn’t come yet. Its tough to sit here after a loss, it feels like you’re saying the same things again,” Evans said. “But the steps we’ve taken since Week 1 to where we are now – a lot of time people only see the wins and losses.
“We try in the film room to point out the things we’re doing right and the areas we’re making mistakes. It’s one play here, one play there that sees the change in the momentum of the game. We’re not at a point where we can overcome that and get back on top.”
Remembering Brad Morris
It was the first Friday night that didn’t have Brad Morris roaming an area sideline. The editor and co-founder of Sporting Pumpkin passed away last Saturday after two decades of covering sports in and around Pickaway County.
Each team placed stickers with his initials on their helmets and a moment of silence was observed prior to Friday’s kickoff.
“It’s been much more than a journalistic relationship, Brad is a friend. We developed that relationship over 10 years,” Holbert said. “He’s been professional, and he’s always been kind. Even when times were tough, he was still kind and I have so much appreciation and respect for that. Just the advocate he was for young people in this area, it’s a huge loss for our community.
“To be able to honor him in a small way and carry him with us for the rest of this year, that’s important.”
Morris covered Circleville’s game at Westfall last week and Evans said they had their usual fun time talking after the game.
“Talking to him after the game last week, Brad was being Brad. He made a joke about ‘next week I’m going to send John over to see you. I’m sure you’d rather have a Circleville guy than a Logan Elm guy.’ I said, ‘Hey Brad, I’ll take you anytime buddy.’ What a great guy,” Evans said. “He was so passionate about everything he did and everything he did for the kids in Pickaway and Fairfield counties. Especially when COVID hit, what you guys did to keep these kids out there and get them the publication they deserve — the work that he did was endless. It didn’t matter if it was football, basketball, baseball – he was going to be there.
“He was a true icon in the sportswriting world and we’re going to miss him.”
Logan Elm (4-0, 1-0) makes the road trip to Fairfield Union (2-2, 0-1) next week. The Falcons fell 38-14 at Hamilton Township (4-0, 1-0) Friday. Circleville (0-4, 0-1) returns home to take on Amanda-Clearcreek (2-2, 0-1). The Aces fell 41-7 to Bloom-Carroll (3-1, 1-0).
Logan Elm 40, Circleville 19
By Quarters 1 2 3 4 F
Circleville 6 7 0 6 19
Logan Elm 14 6 7 13 40
LE — Hunter Kersey 58 pass from Aaron Walters (Dawsen Hudson kick), 11:10.
CV — Drew Thornsley 8 pass from Hudson Phalin (pass failed), 3:38.
LE — Carson Summers 16 pass from Aaron Walters (Dawsen Hudson kick), 0:00.
LE — Camden Redd 25 pass from Aaron Walters (kick failed), 1:52.
CV — Drew Thornsley 8 pass from Hudson Phalin (Payton Ford kick), 0:00.
LE — Landon Thompson 7 run (Dawsen Hudson kick), 11:09.
LE — Hunter Kersey 12 pass from Aaron Walters (kick failed), 9:50.
LE — Carson Summer 17 pass from Aaron Walters (Hudson Dawsen kick), 6:57.
CV — Jack Kline 22 pass from Austin Gray (pass failed), 0:38.
First downs 18 16
Rushing yards 36-117 28-95
Passing yards 198 184
Comp.-Att.-Int 19-35-1 13-22-1
Total yards 315 279
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-40 5-50
Punts-Ave 3-36 2-34
RUSHING – Circleville — Jude Blair 27-89, Hudson Phalin 1-(-1), Austin Gray 3-22, Jadon Friend 1-(-1). Logan Elm — Aaron Walters 2-(-18), Landon Thompson 13-72, Michael Bock 10-47, Austin Holbrook 2-(-5).
PASSING – Circleville — Hudson Phalin 17-33-1-140, Austin Gray 2-2-0-58. Logan Elm — Aaron Walters 13-21-1-184, Austin Holbrook 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING – Circleville — Jude Blair 1-6, Jacob Reichelderfer 2-19, Drew Thornsley 9-59, Jack Kline 5-106, Brody Brisker 1-2, Ben Rolfe 1-6. Logan Elm — Hunter Kersey 6-110, Carson Summers 4-33, Camden Redd 3-41.